Frea's Guide to Frakking Up Sarah Walker

So this week, I got a couple of reviews this week that made me laugh. In fact, TaurgaFour outright accused me of being a glutton for punishment, which I can’t deny. I’ve said on the blog a time or two that I have regretted writing To Resist Both Wind and Tide not because I am ashamed of the writing (though the second chapter needs some work), but because people love my Sarah perspective to the point of requesting it…quite a lot. Some would have me stop writing Fates in Chuck’s perspective entirely, I believe.

And yet, here I am, penning Fortune Favors Fools, the third in the Sarah Walker perspective series. And I’ll even admit it outright: writing from inside Sarah Walker’s head is just as much fun, if not more, than from Chuck’s*. There, that wasn’t at all like throwing kerosene onto a forest fire. Ooh, like at the shiny lights.

So I was talking to mxpw, and it was mentioned that I should write a blog post about how to write Sarah, since she’s a character a lot of people feel that I write well.  It sounded like a good idea, and hey, I'm vain, so I scribbled down a few rules based on tricks I had used while bringing Fates Sarah from my imagination, where she hates me, to the screen where you read her.

Note:  I made most of these rules up in the very same chat, and they’re meant to be taken a little tongue in cheek, so get out those grains of salt, please!

Frea’s Guide to Frakking Up Sarah Walker

1) Make her neurotic.

No, really, neurosis is always funny. People love it when the main character can barely hold it together, no matter what her poker face is telling you. It just makes them feel better about their lives when somebody so kickass is usually ten seconds away from shattering into a million pieces.

2) Don't make her neurotic.

Seriously, she got to be where she is in life by being good at something, despite what “Other Guy” would have us believe. Making her an emotional mess is just messing with her. Stop that.

3) Lust is a Must.

You think I'm kidding? Why the hell do you think people love the Adorable Psycho so much? Driving your character weak at the knees and hungry in more ways than one is always so much fun to write and read. Try it sometime. Make her think straight when Chuck is wearing nothing but work-out shorts and sweat. Go on, I dare you.

4) A Wisecrack or Two Never Hurt Anyone.

Seven years of Buffy taught me two things: if you don't have a stake, a shovel will work in a pinch. And more importantly, a good wise-crack will make up for everything, including almost having your ass handed to you by a vampire named after the most religious day of the week. Your Sarah doesn't even have to be a good wise-cracker. Her pathetic attempts at wit can be the best part! Don't believe me? Look at Sarah's nicknames for any of the canon characters in Fates, and how she reacts when they (rightfully) mock her.

5) Issues? What Issues?

Oh, fine. Give her issues. Make her hate her job, make her hate her dad. Hell, even give her commitment issues if you feel you must. Having conflict in her life, external, internal, just means there are obstacles to overcome. And you know what obstacles mean, right? That's right: instant need to cheer your character on.

Or laugh uproariously when she falls flat on her butt in the mud. But maybe that's just me.

6) Perfection is boring.

No, really, it is. Give her a bad day every once in awhile, let her fumble around, say the wrong thing, make the wrong joke, hit the wrong suspect in the chest with a bazooka. It'll mean more paperwork for her, but that's her problem, not yours.

7) There is no spoon.

Move along.

8) Hobbies.

Yeah, yeah, I know. This one's tough. Canon Sarah doesn't seem to like much but concealing the truth, her knives, occasionally intimidating Morgan, and Chuck. But I tell you, giving her something to do, or frustration at having nothing to do, has worked wonders in Fates. The art of a well-rounded character is being a well-rounded person, or failing at being a well-rounded person as she strives to become one. Habits taken from the show (shoulder bump, anyone? Fates Sarah: yes, please), habits you create, hobbies, personal quirks and tics, when used discretely and wisely, all add to creating the most dynamic character you can get.

9) A Good Partner Helps.

Seriously, the key to a great Sarah is a great Chuck. What I never understand is why people want to read a story where one of the character is awesome and can do anything, yet seems to want to spend time with a character that can do nothing right and is viewed as seriously below his or her social level. Your characters need to want to be together, which means they need appeal. Not necessarily sex appeal (though it can’t hurt!) but genuine, “Oh, Chuck’s cool and aww!” appeal. Things in common, maybe, or natural charisma.  It makes your character so much easier to like and empathize with.

10) Cheat.**

When all else fails, strip Sarah down and dangle her from the ceiling by her wrists. You can claim it's for the plot.

So there you have it, some tricks of the trade you can use when you sit down next to write your very own version of our favorite adorable psycho supermodel spy!  Handy how there are ten of them, right?  mxpw said there should be.  And he's usually right.  Most of the time.



* This is true only, I feel, because we see Sarah’s poker mask from Chuck’s perspective, which adds an amusing sort of giddiness to being inside her head. Like a mystery being unraveled, if you will. Without Chuck’s perspective, I highly doubt Sarah would be as alluring.

** Just kidding! Double Agent rocks!


  1. Sparky14.11.10

    Thanks for turning me off Sarah Walker. If you write one or two more articles like that,i may even stop watching Chuck.

    *thumbs up*

    :P jk.

  2. Sparky14.11.10

    Thanks for Fortune Favors Fools btw. People needed their Sarah POV fix and you just became the dealer :)

  3. Anonymous14.11.10

    A chapter of Fates from Sarah's POV every once in a while would really be welcome :3
    You know, it would show us Sarah's reactions to Chucks neurosis (that's why I like Fortune and Resist so much):P


  4. Nah, I think you should do a companion piece, a bit like Wind and Tide, but just every now and then, if you have the time and motivation, re-write a scene from Fates in Sarah's POV. Or write a missing scene from Fates, from Sarah's POV.

    Thanks for this guide btw, I'm not going to be writing anytime soon, but it's pretty neat to see your thinking process when it comes to writing Sarah.

    Kudos for mentioning about her 'issues', I think that was a great point to highlight.

    Only 1 point to raise; the quote from Ch17? Aside from being very cool and well made, looked a little like those pictures that have a sun rise and a quote from the bible. Not sure whether to be worried or... :) BTW I'm joking. I'm not offended, nor do I think that was your aim! Sarcasm doesn't transfer well online!

  5. Anonymous14.11.10

    Oh Sarah, is there anything you can't do? You can make neurosis and nymphomaniac tendencies sound awesome. You can make assassination adorable. Sure, Frea might try to take the credit for that, but we all know the truth... Master Frea is that you? You know I was joking there, right? The credit goes all to you. Are those new shoes you have on? I could have sworn they were. They are so pretty too.

    Thanks for this. I could never write a Chuck fanfic, but it is nice to see exactly how you picture Sarah as you write her. I love the pictures you used. Just one question, does that mean we should expect for Fates Sarah to be captured and dangle from ceiling everytime you lack inspiration? That could become interesting.


  6. Love the pictures! Especially the two from AoT (glasses, yay!) and Undercover Lover. Also loved you finally admitting that I am right. It's about time too.

    And for the last time, it totally was necessary for the plot! Sheesh! :P

    In my own writing, I have found that #1, 3, and 5 have been the most helpful to me. They just make my versions of Sarah more fun to write. Seriously, there is nothing I enjoy more than writing a neurotic Sarah.

    And, you know, when all else fails, just do #10.

  7. Ayefah14.11.10

    Sarah doesn't have to be captured to be hanging from a ceiling. Maybe she'll borrow Awesome's gravity boots!

  8. JohnClark14.11.10

    I have to say after all your kvetching about the fandoms obsession with your Sarah POV after Wind and Tides I had finally got around to accepting the fact that you loathed writing her POV and wanted people to stop nagging you for more. I tell myself to just live with the sporadic one shots every once and a while that are fun but somewhat unsatisfying. Then you go and write Fortune Favors and while I tried to keep myself from jones-ing then two chapters inside of a week has kinda got me hooked on the Sarah POV again.

    As I said before we all love Fates, but as I've said before in canon Chuck is a heart on his sleeve kinda guy whose pretty much his own arch-type. There really isn't much that can be brought to his character that the audience hasn't already scene. Sarah on the other hand is a riddle wrapped in a mystery wrapped in a conundrum. Someone for whom we have little understanding of her motivations, emotions, thought process or even a (real) lsat name.

    Every chapter you write in the Sarah POV is a new experience to see something we otherwise wouldn't. As great as Chuck is in Fates its just not possible to create that kind of wonder, his character is so clearly defined its hard not to read him like an open..... cliff notes.

    As for a solution for your conundrum Frea I think you should just forsake the outside world and write the two parallel stories from each POV, covering the entire plot line start to finish from each angle. Yes, yes I know your saying it would mean never seeing day light again, and you'd probably develop schizophrenia, but all great art requires sacrifice.

  9. I have never loathed writing in Sarah's POV, and I'm sorry to have given that impression. If anything, I like her POV too much. She's so much rawer and edgier to write than Chuck, who has his upsides (I can make more jokes with Chuck). My main source of griping comes from the fact that every time I write in Sarah's POV, Fates Chuck becomes the unwanted fat kid (which I know isn't true, but when you get reviews for Fates that are only, "OMG, YOU SHOULD WRITE MORE W&T LIKE NOWZ PLEASE-XXORS" it's...unique).

    That being said, develop schizophrenia? Pretty sure it was already there to begin with. :) No, wait, just dissociative identity disorder.

    Hee, Sparky, I'm kind of confused as to why this would turn you off Chuck. I though the pictures alone (yes, even the one that is apparently the Fates version of the footsteps in the sand poem) alone proved why this show is worthy of being watched. :)

    Vincent - Yeah, it would be awesome to be in Sarah's shoes more, but despite all evidence to the contrary and my innate awesomeness, I've got my hands full with Fates and keeping Wepdiggy's addictions in check, which is why I came up with Fortune to cover five birthdays instead of thinking of coming up with five separate one-shots. Laziness, thy name is Frea.

    Becca - no problem. I enjoyed writing the guide. It's not really meant to be taken seriously, though.

    Lily - These old things? Aw shucks, you say the nicest things. *looks down at her battered Chucks* And I can't take any credit for nymphomaniac Sarah. That's all the writers of the Adorable Psycho, NinjaVanish, and possibly that Moonlight Pilot dude.

    And actually, you can tell when I lack inspiration. Sarah does something extra adorable. It's like distracting a toddler or a puppy with a squeaky toy.

    Maximus - I don't think I've resorted to #10 yet in Fates. Well, sort of, but Sarah was fully clothed at the time, much to your chagrin. :)

    Ayefah - Gravity boots? Interesting. *Scribbles down a note*

  10. Sparky15.11.10

    I find most of the tv boring or pointless. When you break down the characters to arch-type character blocks,it sounds a little bit inane :P.

    "Make her neurotic.","Don't make her neurotic.","Dangle her from the ceiling.","Perfection is boring.",etc.

    Especially when i recognize these patterns in the show. But the intersect 2.0 is still fun,Sarah and Casey are likable. And who doesn't like Chuck's "hi-yo"s? Ah,who am i kidding? Week without Chuck is boring.

    BTW,i have a feeling that you are writing Fortune Favors Fools to have time plotting Fates' next parts. Did i get it right?

    And while the new layout is too blue,it's still one of most eye friendly ones i have seen on this blog. I suppose i can suffer through pictures of pissed off Sarah Walker :)

  11. Ayefah15.11.10

    I, for one, am grateful for text that's darker than the backdrop, because I have the eyes of a crotchety senior citizen and constantly have to zap colors on pages with dark backgrounds or I get tremendous headaches reading them. If the text in this layout were even darker it would be even better for me. :P

    (Yes, I am in my twenties. No, I don't want to contemplate what my vision will be like when I'm an actual grown-up type person.)

    Fates!Chuck isn't the unwanted fat kid; we just kind of take his aweseomeness for granted. It's precisely because Sarah is so closed-off and mysterious to Chuck that getting her point of view once in a while is such a treat. It wouldn't quite be the same if Fates had been written from Sarah's POV all along, or even if the chapters switched off POVs or something.

    Good fiction creates a sort of double vision in the reader - we simultaneously identify with the protagonist and live in his/her head and have an eagle's-eye view of the bigger picture and relationships that said protagonist might be too blinkered to notice. Both visions exist at once, and the tension between them is what turns us into critical readers - how many times are we torn between empathizing with a character and trying to judge him/her by broader standards?

    In 'Fates', Chuck generally acts right - the tension between the two visions comes from his limited perceptions. And the two areas where his vision is most distorted are the matter of his bunkerization and the matter of Sarah. We know more than he does, can see the big picture more clearly than he can, and sometimes it gets to be crazymaking. :P

    The small glimpses of Sarah's POV offer a relief of some of that tension, confirming our eagle-eyed views that Sarah has a massive crush on Chuck and he's an oblivious idiot and making us feel more for the Chuck we've been empathizing with by putting us in the head of someone who cares about him a great deal. But without Sarah's silence and Chuck's ignorance, there wouldn't be so much tension to relieve. W&T and FFF would have been no different than 'Fates' from Casey's POV - interesting and fun, but not quite so compelling.

    Why I feel compelled to type this much at 4am, on the other hand, is beyond me. *facepalm*

  12. Sparky15.11.10

    Can't sleep Ayefah? Get in the bed,start reading a book.You will be asleep in no time!

  13. Ayefah, I think you're going to like the next layout of the blog, since I'll keep you in mind designing it. Everybody else might hate it because the pictures of Yvonne Strahovski are going to go, but c'est la vie.

    But yes, I agree with you. And I know I'm just being a petulant writer with too-tight diamond shoes. :) I shall get over this whining fit eventually.

    Er, Sparky, I don't know if there's a nice way to tell you this, but if you're bored by "archetypes" (which, admittedly, canon!Chuck/Sarah are), hanging out on a writing blog that breaks them down to smaller elements in order to make them easier to write...probably not the best place for you? Sorry you think the layout's too blue and, no, I wasn't writing Fortune to plot out the next parts of Fates, as I already know what's going to happen. I'm writing Fortune for five special people in my life, like I wrote Wasted on Us for Maximus and To Sleep, Perchance to Scream for Wepdiggy.

    And I just realized that my naming system means I'm writing Fates and Fortune. Awesome.

  14. Sparky15.11.10

    Thanks for giving the heads up gently. But i hang around here for the hilarity.

    I mean things like this: "Eh, I feel sorrier for my kitchen table. I bumped into it on a midnight Dr. Pepper run last night."

    And as much as i don't like the cliche formulas of tv,i like the breaking down characters part.Add insanity to it= Sorry but i'm here to lurk :)

    Psst,Sarah's pissed off face while shooting people is actually scary.

    "And I just realized that my naming system means I'm writing Fates and Fortune. Awesome."

    You like the letter F? :P

  15. Frea - You've pulled both halves of rule 10 but never at the same time, there was after all when chuck walked in on her coming out of the shower.

  16. Ayefah15.11.10

    Sparky, if you have a few min...hours....erm, days to spare just go to TVTropes and you'll realize that everything ever is a cliché. It's all in the execution. :)

    And hey, I'm all for naming systems that actually venture out of the "Chuck vs..." mode. Not that there's anything wrong with it per se; it's just nice to see some variety in the Pit of Voles.

  17. Sparky15.11.10

    "Sparky, if you have a few min...hours....erm, days to spare just go to TVTropes and you'll realize that everything ever is a cliché. It's all in the execution. :)"

    I defer to your higher judgment :)

    "And hey, I'm all for naming systems that actually venture out of the "Chuck vs..." mode. Not that there's anything wrong with it per se; it's just nice to see some variety in the Pit of Voles."


    "Frea - You've pulled both halves of rule 10 but never at the same time, there was after all when chuck walked in on her coming out of the shower."

    I agree.We should see what Sarah was thinking!

  18. Sarah's thoughts at the time were something between mortification and amusement. "This...is an interesting development." Still, that's one of my favorite scenes ever to have written, and not because Sarah was naked (the Harvard reveal, for what it's worth, is my favorite part of the scene). And you're right, Alris, I really should work on getting all of #10 in there at the same time, but that would be cheating, and also, I'm pretty sure Maximus would come after me for ripping him off.



    I almost wrote a "Chuck vs." named story once, Ayefah. But I used up my "versus" passcard with Chapter 23 of Fates, alas.

  19. Ayefah15.11.10

    I remember being pretty surprised by the quasi-casual Harvard reveal at the time. It was like, wow! Sarah's said something about her past voluntarily! That's crazy! :P

    Also, because of the quote at the top of this entry I reread "Tremors" and flower-sniffing huggy Sarah remains adorable. As does over-apologizing Chuck, bless his self-flagellating socks.

  20. @Frea - I'd mock you if you did #10, but I wouldn't go after you. Why would I want to stop you from doing naked Sarah Walker? Especially with it being so vital to the plot. ;-)

    @Sparky - Believe me when I tell you that the cliches you see in TV exist in all creative realms, be they movies, books, comic books, TV, what have you. It's not a TV cliche so much as it is, as Frea pointed out, an archetype across the whole spectrum. Do you think the Hero's Journey originated in TV? No, of course not. As somebody who has studied a lot of literature over the years, I can tell you that TV is no more cliche than books, it's just more...obvious about it.

    The point of this blog is to explore the creative process and breaking Sarah's character down into its component parts is the kind of stuff we do. Well, that and commiserate over all the quality SWP.

  21. Frea, don't worry, I didn't take it seriously (like I said... sarcasm doesn't freaking transfer! If only the internet had tone.... *sigh*)

    Anyyway, I can't remember what I was going to say. There's Sarah on my left, Sarah on my right, and Sarah up above. Where *aren't* there pictures of Sarah Walker?! Wait, don't tell me, I don't want to know. :)

  22. JohnClark15.11.10

    mxpw, I'm just now noticing your icon and I'm kind of blow away by it, is there a bigger version of that shot or is it by chance part of a larger photo shoot?

  23. @JohnClark - Heh, yes, there is a larger photo shoot. Let it be said I never did anything for you.


    If there's a picture out there of that woman that I haven't seen before, well...it actually probably doesn't exist.

  24. Sparky16.11.10

    "...Well, that and commiserate over all the quality SWP."

    Don't worry,i noticed that :P


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